Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Sing Street (2016)

Film: Sing Street (2016)
Stars: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy
Director: John Carney
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 3/5 stars

The films of John Carney are weirdly similar, at least the ones that I've seen.  In them, we have a loser of a guy, eventually charmed (potentially romantically, but not always) by a beautiful manic-pixie-dream-girl trope of a woman, but one that doesn't feel as manufactured as, say, Natalie Portman in Garden State.  The films feature a plethora of original music, all performed by singers or bands so as not to fall in the fantasy that, say, an MGM musical would give you.  And they all have relatively happy endings (sorry, spoiler alert, but you see the happy ending coming a mile away), even if they aren't exactly traditionally happy.  The question for me, after seeing essentially the same movie twice, is if this is enough?  How many times can you see an iteration of the same movie and not get bored?

(Spoilers Ahead) This is actually pretty true for a lot of movies in general, and perhaps why certain directors have creative peaks and valleys-how often can you go to the same well, with the same formula, and expect something good to result.  Sing Street, is it's worth noting, a good movie.  Set in 1980's Dublin, it's about Conor (Walsh-Peelo), a young boy starting at a new, strict school, who falls in love with a girl named Raphina (Boynton), who looks plucked straight out of a Tears for Fears music video.  Plotting with his brother Brendan (Reynor, arguably my favorite performance in the film), he manages to create a band and asks her to be "the girl" in the band, which results in increasingly solid music videos and performances.  All-the-while, Conor's world is crumbling around him as his parents are nearing a divorce, which leads to Conor being pulled away from Raphina.  Like all of Carney's films, the movie's conclusion gives us a bittersweet ending-here we have Conor and Raphina rushing off to London (perhaps this is meant to be imaginary, perhaps literal-it's hard to say), leaving behind their families in hopes of pursuing their artistry and living a (likely penniless) existence together.

The film's problems lie in that this is essentially the same movie Carney made nine years ago with Once, and again a few years later with Begin Again.  All three films have almost the exact same tropes, and are essentially good but have diminishing returns.  I keep thinking of sitcoms right now, how they repeat the same formulas over-and-over-and-over again, with the same jokes and lessons, coasting off of the personalities at the center of the story.  Here, though, we have different personalities, and the effect gets lesser each time.  I remember thinking with Once what a marvelous, truly special film this is.  I suspect you could think the same thing if you saw Sing Street first of this trio.  The story of someone achieving their dreams, having actual talent, and being on the verge of likely glory is something that Carney does so well, even if he tends to underwrite female characters (but makes up for it by hiring strong female actors into those roles).

I guess I'm being picky, but I'd like to see the director stretch himself a little in the next picture, because I believe this has reached its limit.  The songs and actors, though, are charming, and there's nothing wrong with this movie.  I loved particularly the fantasy sequence and Reynor's Brendan, a dreamer living vicariously through his younger brother, fancying that that could have been him if he'd only had the same sort of reckless commitment.  But I wanted something more out of Sing Street-I wanted him to try and stretch a bit, because a man who can make a movie as special as Once should probably try a little harder than just the same formula, hoping for a carbon-copy of magic that probably will never show up if you don't try around with the formula a bit.

Those are my thoughts on Sing Street-how about yours?  Am I being a grumpy Gus about the film, or am I onto something with Carney seemingly phoning it in?  Do you have a favorite song on this album?  How do you rank Once, Begin Again, and Sing Street against each other?  Share below in the comments!

No comments: